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World Cup Mania…Will It Change How Brands Market?

Dawn Turner's picture

What have you been up to this summer? Regardless of your vacation or work schedules, I am quite sure you have either watched, looked up or overheard someone talking about World Cup-related news.

In my past life I worked on a sponsorship of Major League Soccer as well as the US men’s and women’s US national teams. During that time they were pushing the message that soccer is growing in the US so companies that got involved and began activating early should see the fruits of their labor much more quickly amongst the growing number of soccer fans. As a sports marketer I understood this message and could see a premonition of what was to come.

Every four years the World Cup puts futbol/soccer on the world stage. The strong sense of national pride never ceases to amaze me during the event and this year is no exception. Social media and digital marketing of course are as robust as ever, so it has been fun to watch brands work hard to deepen their association with one of the hottest events of the year. In my mind the closest likeness is the Olympics, however I saw a stat somewhere recently that said this World Cup has officially out-done the Olympics by way of social media sharing. Not to mention they are blowing ratings out of the water for both ESPN and Univision.

During the week of 6/26 I saw where Unruly reported some early results showing that brands not affiliated with the event are driving 71.2% of the shares. They reported that the top player was Activia and that Nike beat out official tournament sponsor Adidas. The top 11 by most shared soccer ads at the time of their report were: Activia, Nike, Samsung, Castrol, Adidas, Coca-Cola, Beats by Dre, ESPN, Emirates, Nissin Group and Banco de Chile.

As a brand marketer I find this both inspiring and troubling. The brands paying the big bucks to be official partners aren’t always the ones in the forefront of people’s minds. Nike may be winning the war with Adidas, but did you see the clever campaign Adidas created for the ball @brazuca? Ingenious if you ask me. I love that they put thought into how they can personalize and personify their brand with the game of soccer and the World Cup in general. Yes they make the uniforms and millions of soccer players of all ages around the world wear Adidas soccer gear, but how many of them relate to Adidas as a company? I give them props for their creativity with this campaign and will be very interested to see the results.

Other brands such as Coca-Cola, Gatorade and Snickers (to name a few) found ways to engage in conversation around the World Cup. These marketers paid close attention to the top news stories and found a way to weave themselves into the conversation. Some of this was pre-planned via activation campaigns but others were just done as a topic or message became relevant, thus injecting their brand message into the general news.

The World Cup mania we’ve seen is showing us that soccer is the world’s game. All of this is great, but how can you apply this to you and your brand and sponsors? A few things come to mind:

1 – Now is the time to look at your activation campaigns. Are they stale and need refreshed? Do they offer flexibility with messaging so you can take advantage of ongoing news cycles? If not I recommend making some tweaks.

2 – Do you have the right properties or brands in your portfolio? When is the last time you considered how your current partnerships match up to your company objectives and needs? Even if you are locked into long-term deals, I recommend taking a look. A few deliverables switched out here and there can make all the difference.

3 – Do the properties you work with have gates in place to properly protect their partners? In the instance of national pride and the World Cup it is possible for non-sponsors to enter the picture without crossing any lines, but it is always good to have the conversation. Learn your rights and how they plan to protect them. Trust me, they don’t want to lose your business so be sure you are adamant about being protected.

4 – Do you have the guts to be proactive? It is my opinion that the brands and properties that are willing to take the most risk are going to fare much better in the marketplace. They are going to be seen as innovative and cutting-edge. Why? Because only a handful play in this space. If you aren’t currently looking at your marketing through this lens I highly recommend you take a moment and evaluate your plans.

The World Cup will come to a close soon, at which time the winner will be crowned for their four-year reign. What will happen during these next four years isn’t known, but I daresay we will be seeing soccer/futbol in the US in a way we never have before. Will those in early reap the benefits? That will definitely be something to watch.

Please comment and discuss what you have liked/disliked with the World Cup brand marketing this year and share column ideas with me @dawtrnr.

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